Homeschooling in the COVID Age
Parents across the world are overwhelmed by working at home and home schooling – due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I empathize deeply with their dilemmas, but the challenges often cited, for me, are a distant memory. You see, my husband and I have been living this reality for about 10 years. But in an effort to help other parents navigate these stressful times, I’ve taken some time to reflect on the ups and downs.
Every parent has different circumstances and none of this is meant to counsel or suggest that there is one way of doing things. Hopefully though, this information will be helpful and provide ideas for parents who feel like they have been suddenly thrust into another dimension.
Did it Get Better?
First of all, yes, it did get better. Perhaps the most important thing we learned was that our old way of doing things (9-5 with weekends and evenings off) simply didn’t work. We had to completely change our way of thinking and functioning. Sure a schedule is important, consistency is important and productivity is key, but simply sitting at a desk for 4 hours in the morning and 4 hours in the afternoon didn’t work well. We began to have success when we started thinking beyond the norms.
How Do We Balance Work and Kids?
We struggled with this for a time with both our kids, even though they have polar opposite personalities. One kid may be bouncing off the walls, while the other wants to talk with you for hours, but we found they both had common threads.
Our kids were much more content to let us work, if we spent some time with them first. We found that our children were more giving once they felt that they had received.
At this point our older child is doing online public school and we have arranged our schedule as follows:
Morning: Dad or Mom works, older child does schoolwork (and occasionally asks for help between 10:30 and 11:30, this gives over an hour uninterrupted with the younger child), parent not working plays/does pre-school with the younger (some days we incorporate household chores or food prep and craft activities).
Lunch: 1 hr together
Afternoon: Mom and Dad work, older child plays with younger child (and if the kids can’t get along they must spend the duration in an un-fun solitary way).
When we had just one child, we found this schedule also worked well. Although our only child had no one to play with, she was much more content after having spent time with us in the morning and would spend several hours happily playing alone. When we added in table projects with play-do, legos, Picasso tiles etc. our children became quite content. It’s also been productive to “hide” toys for specific days and hours, so that the children will not have a chance to get bored with them.
After this schedule is followed, the remaining time is based on a list rather than allotted time. We make a list of things that must be done on a weekly or daily basis, including special work projects. Keeping the list in mind, we switch between working, cooking, cleaning etc. Even so, not everything on the list always gets done, and that’s ok. Color coding is helpful; red is a must, yellow – not so important.
If the kids express boredom, there is always a floor that needs cleaning or dishes that need to be done etc. As a bonus, we’ve found that when the kids feel like they’re helping the family, their self esteem gets a boost.
How Do We Keep Our Kids Engaged in Learning at Home?
We use our home to an advantage. At home, kids are well aware of their surroundings. They’ve seen that same teddy bear every day for years, the same picture hangs on the wall and they’ve played with those legos hundreds of times. We use this to our advantage.
For example, in teaching fractions to our kids we sometimes use measuring cups and flour to illustrate that 1 cup and 4 of the 1/4 cups are the same amount of flour. If a child is having a hard time grasping something math, language arts or science related, what familiar item may provide a breakthrough? The home is filled with them, both in objects and their finer details.
We have one child that can’t sit still for a single second. Taking a tour around the house or backyard works well. For example, tossing a ball back and forth while calling out numbers, times tables, math terms – the sky’s the limit on this one. We learned in a teaching class that retention increases with this method, which means less school time. Learning new vocabulary and spelling by taking a tour around the house, pointing to items and asking them to touch, name and spell it with you, etc. also works well and speeds up the learning process.
To Sum Up Work & Homeschooling
Does this all sound exhausting? I’m going to be very honest; yes, yes it is. But the transformation we’ve gone through is that while this is exhausting, it’s not often hair pulling, and that in itself is a huge improvement.
Occasionally, when life is overwhelming us we have to make the conscious choice to forgive ourselves and each other. Everyone fails at times, gets stressed and needs a break. Handing the kids devices, or putting on a movie, and retreating to the back porch or a quiet room for 3 hours does wonders for rejuvenating and resetting. We’ve found that if we retreat for a set time, rather than continuing to push through for several days, we sort out our thoughts and come back stronger.
So in summary, what has worked for us is a combination of scheduling and prioritized lists – half hard core scheduling, that everyone is expected to respect, half prioritized lists. Consistency is key.
It can be done, but trial and error is all part of the process. It also requires a degree of flexibility from your employer, so open communication may go a long way. Hopefully I’ve given some helpful pointers to the parents that are adjusting in these hard times. And please, share what you’ve learned with me as well! I’m ten years down, but wouldn’t you agree; we never stop learning!